Whitetail is a competent thriller if a bit longer than needed. In the best of hands, utilizing a small cast in just a handful of settings, can still be a challenge when creating a feature length film. But at nearly two hours, Whitetail loses steam and attention as it ticks on. The movie is filled with discussions on religion and ideas of it means to be a real man. These moments can be pretentious and seen only as a way to make the script seem deeper than it really is.
A father, son, and uncle head out for a hunting trip. During this time, we learn that the son’s mom has passed away and this is a chance to reconnect. It’s clear that the relationships are strained between all three. It’s not long before they run into a trio of bank robbers and a backpack full of money. Soon everyone is thrown into a fight of survival and forced to make choices that will change their lives forever.
The cast overall does well enough with the material at hand. With Frank (Paul T. Taylor) as the brother of the deceased mother, as well as the man who seems to be more concerned with enjoying themselves instead of actually hunting. Paul is able to play the caring uncle to Donnie (Dash Melrose) without being over-the-top. Dash, while given very little to say, is the standout in the cast. His acting was top notch when conveying emotion without dialog. Then we get to Tom (Tom Zembrod), Donnie’s dad who pushes what he feels makes a real man onto Donnie while also belittling Frank. While the character can be eye rolling, Tom brings enough to make him at least a little grounded.
With a majority of Whitetail taking place in the forest, the lighting and overall camera work is solid. While the editing wasn’t as strong and the sound stumbled a bit, neither really took away from the viewing experience. It was mostly clear about what was going on and when. Special credit given to the sound team though. Even with most of the movie being outside, the dialog was generally clear and understandable.
Where Whitetail really trips over itself is the script and pacing. There could be a tight and lean thriller in here if twenty to thirty minutes were trimmed. And that trimming could have help with the script issues as well. By removing scenes that talk about how Donnie shouldn’t be somewhere on account of his “condition,” a condition we never heard of. It’s not until we see Donnie go into a meltdown over a notebook, that we realize that his “condition” is that he’s on the spectrum. Moments like these are peppered all throughout the film. Not only do these not add anything to the story but they needlessly bloat the runtime to the point where I just stopped caring about the outcome.
5 out of 10